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Using framework-based synthesis for conducting reviews of qualitative studies


BMC Medicine

BioMed Central



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Framework analysis is a technique used for data analysis in primary qualitative research. Recent years have seen its being adapted to conduct syntheses of qualitative studies. Framework-based synthesis shows considerable promise in addressing applied policy questions. An innovation in the approach, known as 'best fit' framework synthesis, has been published in BMC Medical Research Methodology this month. It involves reviewers in choosing a conceptual model likely to be suitable for the question of the review, and using it as the basis of their initial coding framework. This framework is then modified in response to the evidence reported in the studies in the reviews, so that the final product is a revised framework that may include both modified factors and new factors that were not anticipated in the original model. 'Best fit' framework-based synthesis may be especially suitable in addressing urgent policy questions where the need for a more fully developed synthesis is balanced by the need for a quick answer.

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Methods for the synthesis of qualitative research: a critical review

Background In recent years, a growing number of methods for synthesising qualitative research have emerged, particularly in relation to health-related research. There is a need for both researchers and commissioners to be able to distinguish between these methods and to select which method is the most appropriate to their situation. Discussion A number of methodological and conceptual links between these methods were identified and explored, while contrasting epistemological positions explained differences in approaches to issues such as quality assessment and extent of iteration. Methods broadly fall into 'realist' or 'idealist' epistemologies, which partly accounts for these differences. Summary Methods for qualitative synthesis vary across a range of dimensions. Commissioners of qualitative syntheses might wish to consider the kind of product they want and select their method – or type of method – accordingly.
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Synthesising qualitative and quantitative evidence: a review of possible methods

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A multidimensional conceptual framework for analysing public involvement in health services research.

To describe the development of a multidimensional conceptual framework capable of drawing out the implications for policy and practice of what is known about public involvement in research agenda setting. Public involvement in research is growing in western and developing countries. There is a need to learn from collective experience and a diverse literature of research, policy documents and reflective reports. Systematic searches of research literature, policy and lay networks identified reports of public involvement in research agenda setting. Framework analysis, previously described for primary research, was used to develop the framework, which was then applied to reports of public involvement in order to analyse and compare these. The conceptual framework takes into account the people involved; the people initiating the involvement; the degree of public involvement; the forum for exchange; and methods used for decision making. It also considers context (in terms of the research focus and the historical, geographical or institutional setting), and theoretical basis. The framework facilitates learning across diverse experiences, whether reported in policy documents, reflections or formal research, to generate a policy- and practice-relevant overview. A further advantage is that it identifies gaps in the literature which need to be filled in order to inform future research about public involvement.

Author and article information

[1]Social Science Research Group, Department of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
BMC Medicine
BioMed Central
14 April 2011
: 9
: 39
Copyright ©2011 Dixon-Woods; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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